Local Legislators Provide Insight Into 80th Legislative Session

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Washington County legislators gave residents a first-hand account of the inner workings of the 80th legislative session.

Hundreds filed into the Washington County Fairgrounds Event Center all with one thing in mind: learning more about the accomplishments of the session. Community members had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with some of the local state legislators.

"I really hope it builds individual relationships. When you meet someone face-to-face and you exchange questions and answers, that starts a relationship that lasts," said Page Michel, President and CEO of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, and Republican State Representative Lois Kolkhorst from Brenham, were on hand to discuss some of their successes in the latest session, such as House Bill 2, which appropriates $2 billion to lower property taxes.

However, despite success in the 140-day assembly, officials say the governor's veto of one item in particular hit close to home.

"The veto of the higher education group insurance which totaled about $153.9 million dollars impacts Blinn College about $3 million," Kolkhorst said.

She added in another formula for the budget worked on by herself and other legislators, local community colleges would have reaped some benefits.

"Blinn College was going to come out about $4 million to the positive, and this takes away $3 million, so now they have to go to two sources to find their increases for utilities, etc.," Kolkhorst said, "either tuition or property taxes. Neither one is good for me."

"How do they figure out now how to make up for that loss? That impacts the taxpayers and it impacts the students because that just means they are going to makeup the difference -- higher cost of tuition," Hegar said.

Legislators say colleges such as Blinn were the most negatively affected this session.

"Those that I think suffer the most in the budget actually are the gateways to higher education -- community colleges -- and they suffered the most through this budget process," Kolkhorst said.

This session, legislators dealt with everything from the Trans Texas Corridor to eminent domain. Officials say despite some executive hurdles they remain optimistic about what was accomplished.

"I think we did a lot of good, but it just means we are going to have to work even harder to get this done next session," Hegar said.